Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Five Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2009 Announced

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) announced today the top five vote getters of its 1st Annual Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Year Poll. Nominees were drawn from the monthly Most Ridiculous Lawsuit poll winners, chosen by visitors to FacesofLawsuitAbuse.org, a public awareness campaign Web site that aims to show how abusive lawsuits affect small businesses and average families in very real ways.

"While ridiculous lawsuits may be easy fodder for late-night television hosts, they are no laughing matter for the defendants targeted," said ILR President Lisa Rickard.

The top five Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2009 are:

5. Neighbor sues woman for smoking in her own home;

4. Double-murderer sues to claim his victims' classic Chevy pickup;

3. Holocaust denier sues Auschwitz survivor, alleging memoir contains "fantastical tales;"

2. Tourist sues hotel, claiming swimming pool got daughter pregnant;

1. Illegal immigrants sue rancher who stopped them on his property at gunpoint and turned them over to the Border Patrol.

Links to the news stories about these lawsuits can be found at: http://facesoflawsuitabuse.org/polls-archive/.

Throughout the year, the monthly and annual polls collectively received more than 50,000 votes.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber is the world's largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Black AIDS Institute Kicks Off Its National Platform to Build Black AIDS Awareness in Atlanta, GA

/PRNewswire/ -- Martin Luther King Jr. weekend marks the kick-off of the Black AIDS Institute's National Trump AIDS Bid Whist Tournament with a Qualifying Tournament and Health Fair in Atlanta, GA.

The Black AIDS Institute and the 7 NO! Players of Atlanta, the original hosts of the Bid Blind, are joining forces to mobilize and build awareness of HIV/AIDS in the Black community. The Health Fair, in partnership with local Atlanta organization Sister Love, includes free on-site HIV testing and health information for all Tournament attendees, players and guests.

Participants are encouraged to get involved with ending the AIDS epidemic in the Black community while having fun and potentially winning guaranteed cash Tournament prizes.

When: January 16, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.

Location: The Clarion Hotel
5010 Old National Highway
College Park, GA 30349
MAP Location


Event Fee(s): $65 per person at the door or $55 per person online pre-registration

The Tournament will culminate at the Trump AIDS nationals November 2010. Visit www.TrumpAIDS.org for a complete list of cities hosting events and to register.

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New Year's Resolutions For Job Seekers

/PRNewswire/ -- Millions of Americans will be job hunting in 2010, and for many of those who are currently unemployed, the search will mark the continuation of a long and unsuccessful journey. Andy Chan, vice president for career development at Wake Forest University, says job seekers often encounter three major roadblocks to success: poor marketing, poor networking, and poor mind-set. He offers 10 New Year's Resolutions aimed at overcoming those obstacles.

Roadblock #1 - Poor marketing

"Many people don't realize that the way they are marketing themselves just isn't working, and they never get any feedback," Chan said. "The best way to get feedback is to ask for it from people who do a lot of hiring."

1. I will ask friends or acquaintances who manage and hire people to evaluate my cover letter and resume and give me real feedback - even if it hurts to hear it.

2. I will ask these same friends to conduct a practice interview with me and give me "tough love" feedback.

3. When I find an attractive job on the Web, I will apply immediately (with a tailored cover letter and resume) and search for friends and colleagues who could act as referrals to help me network into the organization.

Roadblock #2 - Poor networking

"We make the assumption that if we apply on the Web, it will get us in the door. But the truth is, if your experience doesn't line up perfectly with the job, the likelihood of getting seen is low," Chan says. "That's why networking is important. People hire people; they don't hire paper."

4. I will be thoughtful about when to send my resume, and I will not send my resume to everyone I know.

5. I will be specific about the type of work and organizations, including names of target organizations that I find most interesting.

6. I will network 80 percent of the time and use the Web 20 percent of the time.

Roadblock #3 - Poor mind-set

"A lot of people are looking at jobs through a narrow lens. But as the old Rolling Stones song says, 'you can't always get what you want,'" Chan says. "You may need to focus first on what you need and get the ideal job later."

7. I will be open to exploring many options because an interesting opportunity may exist beyond what I can see on the surface.

8. I will re-examine what my real financial NEEDS are so that I can be more open to opportunities that may pay me less than what I WANT.

9. I will evaluate opportunities by recognizing that this job can be a stepping stone to another job (inside or outside the company) - especially as the market improves.

10. Although I might want to quit and do a job search full-time, I am more attractive to employers when I am employed (and I have income which buys me more time to find a job that I am excited about).

Adopting these 10 resolutions can help refresh and rejuvenate your job search, and get your new year off to the best start possible.

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Grandparents Who Raise Children Can Seek Help

24-7 - Lola and Bill Bailey of Friendly, West Virginia, are grandparents' rights ambassadors who travel the country in a 2005 Gulfstream, advising grandparents raising grandchildren on setting up grandparents groups and spearheading legislative efforts to further the interests of their "grandfamilies." Founders of Grandchildren/Grandparents, Inc. of West Virginia, the Baileys travel and speak under the auspices of the National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights, an umbrella group that assists grandparents raising grandchildren with program referrals and advocates grandparent-headed family-friendly legislative action.

The Baileys speak on behalf of the 2.6 million grandparents raising grandchildren in this country, a number that has increased 4 percent since 2007 according to census data. These grandparents, who step in to fill a family need for surrogate parents, fill a pressing social need as well: they raise 6 million children who would otherwise be in foster care. And the number of children raised by grandparents dwarfs those raised by foster parents. Only 500,000 children live in formal foster care arrangements in the United States, according to the National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights, one-twelfth the number who reside with grandparents.

Yet, the system that benefits so heavily from grandparents' willingness to step in and raise their grandchildren often discriminates against them, giving them less funding than is given to formal foster parents. The New York Times reported that in Florida, grandparents receive only half the amount of financial assistance received by foster parents. The disparity between funds available to grandparents raising grandchildren and foster parents is primarily the result of the 80 percent of grandparents who raise grandchildren without legal custody arrangements. Without legal custody, they don't qualify for benefits available to assist legal custodians with children's expenses. Yet obtaining formal legal custody typically requires legal assistance that can be cost-prohibitive and may create ruptures in already strained family relationships.

Grandparents who step in to stabilize the lives of their grandchildren often do so at the expense of their own financial stability. Many elderly people live on fixed incomes that don't easily accommodate the demand from additional family members. National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights says that 19 percent of grandparents raising grandchildren nationwide live in poverty.

And the numbers of grandparents risking impoverishment to rescue grandchildren from troubled situations seems likely to increase. Amy Goyer, an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) expert, predicts that substance abuse, teen pregnancy and mental illness will continue to fuel the establishment of grandfamilies.

While the number of grandparents taking on responsibility for raising grandchildren has increased, funding for services to assist them, which has never been ample, has begun to dwindle as the economic recession forces social service program cuts. Even the National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights has suffered program cuts, with its New York office losing a state grant this year that constituted about 8 percent of its funding, according to The New York Times.

The outlook for grandparents raising grandchildren is not entirely bleak, however. While many social service program funds have been cut, some communities are developing innovative new solutions to problems faced by grandfamilies. In Boston, Hartford, the Bronx and Baton Rouge, apartment housing built specifically for grandfamilies has appeared. These units meet the need for modestly priced housing large enough to accommodate children and simultaneously create a support group for the grandparents coping with the issues of raising the next generation. Some of the apartment buildings house subsidiary services such as after-school programs and social workers to assist the grandfamilies.

Some government assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (formerly AFDC) will provide funding for children living with grandparents despite the absence of a legal custodianship, and those with low incomes may qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps). In addition to financial help, grandparents may find solace in connecting with similarly situated grandparents and receiving advice from those who have walked the same road. Grandparents' rights organizations can provide such assistance and help by advising grandparents to obtain notarized statements from the children's parents authorizing them to sign for necessary medical care.

Lately, Lola and Bill Bailey have stationed themselves in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, allowing Lola to take the train to Washington once or twice a week to meet with members of Congress to and seek legislative solutions to some of the issues facing relative caregivers.

Article provided by Breeden Law

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

With a 'Zero' Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Just Ahead for 2010, Seniors and Congressman Vow Action

PRNewswire/ -- Today RetireSafe, representing 400,000 senior citizen supporters across America, announced a "Let's Get it Right" campaign for 2010 to establish a new Consumer Price Index for Seniors (CPI-S) so that Social Security benefits can be accurately and fairly determined each year. In addition, the group announced its support for the pending introduction of new legislation by U.S. Representative John "Jimmy" Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) which would direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to finally determine the "right" CPI-S formula for seniors. RetireSafe, an advocacy organization for older Americans, supports this critical first step to correct the faulty formula now used by the BLS, the same one resulting in a "zero" COLA for 2010.

According to RetireSafe President Thair Phillips, "The BLS, along with numerous other credible sources, has noted that each of the present methods now used (CPI, CPI-U, CPI-W, and CPI-E) to calculate inflation is severely flawed in measuring seniors' actual costs and expenses. While there may be other approaches to address this problem, we believe the first step should be an accurate CPI for seniors, a true CPI-S. Fortunately, Congressman Duncan agrees that seniors deserve a fair and accurate annual COLA that can only be determined with a fair and accurate CPI-S. He will be introducing the 'CPI for Seniors' Act next month, and we are fully committed to help Congressman Duncan enact this important legislation."

As Congressman Duncan notes, "The annual Social Security COLA is a crucial element to maintain a decent quality of life for our seniors, both in my District in Tennessee, and across the Nation. It must be based upon an accurate CPI-S that truly reflects the real impact of inflation on older Americans coping with ever-higher health care, energy, and food prices. I'm very pleased to be able to work with RetireSafe to enact new legislation that I believe will finally ensure fairness and accuracy for seniors," Duncan stated, pledging bill introduction in January.

Phillips continued, "This is the right approach to correct a longstanding wrong that has harmed our seniors for decades. They're not looking for a hand-out, which is what other measures propose, but rather they want the fair, accurate, and 'right' benefits they have worked for and rightly deserve. We are proud to work with Congressman Duncan to enact into law the 'CPI for Seniors' Act for America's seniors that he will soon be introducing in the U.S. House of Representatives."

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Alcohol and Fireworks Don't Mix! Warns National Council on Fireworks Safety

/PRNewswire/ -- New Year's Eve is a wonderful time to celebrate the start of a new year. And fireworks are a wonderful way of celebrating. However, all too often, New Year's Eve festivities involve excess alcohol. Just like driving and drinking do not mix, shooting consumer fireworks and drinking absolutely do not mix.

If you are at a party for New Year's Eve where consumer fireworks are being shot, make sure that there is a designated shooter who has not been drinking any alcohol. Even a small quantity of alcohol (one beer, a glass of wine) can impair one's judgment and ability to properly set up and use consumer fireworks safely.

Nancy Blogin, President of the National Council on Fireworks Safety, notes: "Each New Year's Eve, consumers are injured because their judgment has been impaired by beer, wine, or another alcoholic drink. The lesson is simple: Alcohol and fireworks don't mix."

In addition, the National Council reminds shooters of consumer fireworks of these other important safety tips:

-- Only use fireworks outdoors.
-- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
-- Never give fireworks to young children.
-- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
-- Always have a bucket of water, or water hose, nearby.


And remember, ALCOHOL AND FIREWORKS DON'T MIX!

The National Council on Fireworks Safety is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose sole mission is to educate the public on the safe and responsible use of consumer fireworks. For a full list of consumer fireworks safety tips and the Council's safety videos, please visit http://www.fireworkssafety.org/.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

FAA Gives Santa Thumbs-Up for Takeoff

Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt braved snow, ice and foggy conditions at North Pole International Airport to give Santa Claus and his sleigh a thumbs-up for the jolly old pilot’s traditional round-the-world Christmas Eve mission.

During a 90-minute check ride, Administrator Babbitt made sure Santa can properly execute the demanding maneuvers and precision rooftop landings inherent in making toy deliveries. He also checked that the sleigh’s deicing equipment, reindeer propulsion system and communications and navigation systems are working properly. In addition, the Administrator verified Santa has policies in place to guarantee he and his elves will have a proper rest period before the long, all-night mission.

While the elves will have WiFi inflight internet access, St. Nick stressed he will strictly enforce his longstanding ban on distractions in the cockpit.

“Santa and his crew have always shown extraordinary professionalism in the cockpit,” said FAA Administrator Babbitt “I’m certain they’ll pull off the flight without a hitch.”

This year, Santa has several Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technology improvements at his disposal to make the annual trip safer and more fuel-efficient.

For example, North Pole International Airport boasts a new ASDE-X ground surveillance radar system to help St. Nick avoid marauding polar bears and the occasional Grinch. Santa’s sleigh (registration N0EL) boasts all the necessary electronics to use Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP), approaches the FAA has in place to help Santa easily reach children’s homes. The sleigh also has an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) component that pinpoints its position for air traffic controllers and other aircraft throughout the flight.

Mindful of environmental issues, Santa has incorporated several Earth-friendly features this year. Rudolph’s bright red nose and the sleigh’s warning and decorative lights are all powered by energy-saving LEDs.

The public can follow Santa on his Christmas Eve mission at http://www.noradsanta.org/en/index.html.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Buying a home or making green home improvements? Don't miss out on these tax credits

(ARA) - A wide range of tax law changes over the last year will result in considerable savings for millions of Americans on their 2009 federal tax returns. Homebuyers and homeowners have some of the most to gain from the changes.

Understanding the qualifications for home-related credits can be confusing and intimidating. Jessi Dolmage, spokeswoman for 2nd Story Software, the makers of TaxACT, breaks them down.

"If you've never owned or haven't owned a principal residence during the three years prior to the purchase date, you may qualify for the First-Time Homebuyer Credit. The purchase date must fall after April 8, 2009 and before May 1, 2010, with closing to take place before July 1, 2010. It's equal to 10 percent of the purchase price, up to a maximum of $8,000. You only have to repay the money if the home ceases to be your primary residence or is sold within three years of purchase," says Dolmage.

Property cannot be acquired from a relative, and married taxpayers must both qualify as first-time homebuyers if filing jointly. The credit can be claimed on a 2009 return or an amended 2008 return.

The Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009 extended the credit's closing date from Nov. 30, 2009, to April 30, 2010, and added rules for homes purchased after Nov. 6, 2009, including:

* You must be at least 18 on the purchase date (only one spouse must be 18) and cannot be claimed as a dependent.
* Purchase price cannot exceed $800,000.
* If the sale doesn't close by April 30, 2010, you may still qualify if there's a binding contract to purchase by that date. The sale must close before July 1, 2010, and the credit cannot be claimed before the closing date.

Purchase date and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) determine credit phase out. If the purchase date was before Nov. 7, 2009, full credit is available to those with an MAGI up to $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers). If you have an MAGI between $75,000 and $95,000 ($150,000 and $170,000 for joint filers), you're eligible for reduced credit. Higher incomes do not qualify.

If the purchase date is after Nov. 6, 2009, full credit is available to those with an MAGI of up to $125,000 ($225,000 for joint filers). If your MAGI falls between $125,000 and $145,000 ($225,000 and $245,000 for joint filers), you could receive a reduced credit. Higher incomes don't qualify.

"Current homeowners looking for a different or new home may also qualify for the First-Time Homebuyer Credit," Dolmage says. "The Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act modified the credit to allow for up to $6,500 if you purchase a replacement home before April 30, 2010. You must have lived in the same principal residence for a five-consecutive-year period during the eight-year period that ends on the purchase date of the replacement home."

In addition:

* You must buy, or enter into a binding contract to buy, a principal residence after Nov. 6, 2009, and before May 1, 2010, and close on it before July 1, 2010.
* The credit phases out for those with an MAGI between $125,000 and $145,000 ($225,000 and $245,000 for joint filers).
* 2009 purchases must be claimed on a 2009 return; 2010 purchases can be claimed on a 2009 or 2010 return.

All homeowners can claim tax credits for green improvements. The Residential Energy Property Credit is worth 30 percent, up to $1,500, for improvements such as adding insulation or installing energy-efficient windows, doors, or heating and air conditioning systems. Bigger improvements involving alternative energy equipment, like solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines can be claimed under the Residential Energy Efficiency Property Credit. This credit is equal to 30 percent of the cost of the qualified property, with no limit on the maximum amount of the credit available.

New tax laws also include breaks for children, college expenses, new vehicles, unemployment and several other areas. Information about all 2009 tax law changes can be found at www.IRS.gov.

"You can see exactly how the changes will affect your 2009 taxes with TaxACT Free Federal Edition," Dolmage adds." With TaxACT, all taxpayers can prepare, print and e-file their IRS return for free. Go to www.TaxACT.com to get started."

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Consumer Reports: Avoid Return Gotchas Before Buying a Gift

/PRNewswire/ -- Even the most fool-proof gifts are subject to returns. In fact, 19% of people plan on returning a gift after the holidays, according to a recent Consumer Reports poll. But returning items may not be as easy or affordable as in years past. Holiday headaches will last long after the season is over, as return shipping costs, restocking fees and other gotchas prevail.

Most retailers have perfectly reasonable return policies, but some are better than others, according to Consumer Reports senior editor Tod Marks. "With so many stores selling the same or similar merchandise, where you buy can almost be as important as what you buy," said Marks, who pens the "Tightwad Tod" shopping blog on www.ConsumerReports.org. "However, there is good news: Most big retailers will generally accept returns on merchandise purchased between November and Christmas through the end of January."

Hassle-free return tactics

Because even the best gifts don't always fare well with recipients, it's best to be prepared before the purchase is made. Check privacy policies and terms of agreement, not just the returns section of a retailer's site. Consumer Reports also recommends shoppers should:

-- Get a receipt or gift receipt. Despite longer grace periods, retailers
are becoming more insistent on a receipt in order to get a refund, and
they're more inclined to turn away customers without proof of
purchase. Without a receipt, they may offer a store credit for the
lowest price the item sold for.
-- Keep packaging intact. Stores are likely to refuse a return if the
packaging materials are open or discarded. Even a missing instruction
manual, cords and cables or warranty card can give retailers reason to
deny the return.
-- Be wary online. Don't just throw it in a box and mail it back. Online
returns usually require a packing slip (typically included in any gift
order), and a return authorization number. Call ahead to ensure that
all requirements are being met.
-- Don't break seals or cut out UPC codes. Items like computer software,
video games, CDs and DVDs aren't generally returnable for another
title after the seal has been broken. If an item comes with a rebate
offer, make sure it works before removing the UPC code to redeem the
rebate.

Don't get stuck paying restocking fees

A restocking fee is a fee imposed on a consumer who returns an item. It covers the cost of processing the return, the costs associated with returning the item to the store's shelves, and any lost revenue as a result of the store's inability to sell that item as new. More products carry a restocking fee if the package has been opened, but if the item is defective before it's used, the store should not charge a restocking fee.

Typically fees range from 10 to 15 percent of the purchase price. Items more likely to have restocking fees include camcorders, TVs, digital cameras, and computers; however Consumer Reports found some not-so-hot returns policies that harbor a variety of restocking fees, including:

-- Amazon.com: 15% restocking fees for computers and fine jewelry.
-- Best Buy: 15% restocking fees on laptops, camcorders, digital cameras
and GPS navigators.
-- Bidz.com: 15% restocking fee on all items. Plus shoppers have only 15
days to return items.
-- Sears: 15% restocking fee applies to electronics products returned
without the original box, used, and without all of the original
packaging. The penalty also applies to some other products.
-- Home Depot: special-orders and some cancelled orders are subject to a
15 percent restocking fee.
-- Macys: 10% restocking fee on furniture.
-- Newegg.com: 15% restocking fee on all major purchases if the box is
opened.


The bottom line when it comes to restocking fees: Don't open the package unless there is no possibility of a return.

The best policies

Consumer Reports scanned various policies at a number of notable retailers and found the return period ranged from 30 days to as many as 180 days. Standout retailers to make Consumer Reports' list for best policies include Bed, Bath & Beyond, Bloomingdale's, Costco, Ikea, Kmart, Kohl's, Lowe's, Nike, Nordstrom, Piperlime.com, Sam's Club, and Shoebuy.com.

Some chains offer exemplary policies year round including Orvis, LL Bean, Land's End, and Zappos. All four retailers will take back unwanted merchandise, no questions asked. Zappos gives you a year to decide and asks that the goods be returned in their original packaging and condition. The others simply say you can return anything at any time for any reason.

Major retailers: what to expect

Wal-mart allows for 90 days for a full refund, except for electronics (it's 15 to 45 days depending on the gadget). Target grants 90 days for a refund with a receipt (some electronics have a 15% restocking fee). An even exchange is offered without a receipt, up to $70 worth of merchandise within a year.

Sears has a 90-day refund or exchange policy for most goods, 30 days on electronics, customized jewelry and other items including mattresses. Macy's has a number of limitations on items from furniture to jewelry.

Online retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com have strict limitations on what can be returned. For example, Amazon does not allow computers to be returned after 30 days and Overstock doesn't accept returned TVs over a certain size.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

When The Recession Hits Santa

/PRNewswire/ -- Parents hard hit by the recession may wonder how to explain to their children why there aren't as many presents under the tree this year.

Christy Buchanan, professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, reminds parents that "children, in their heart of hearts, don't want a lot of things from their parents as much as they want love from them and time with them. In the long run, it's love, shared time, and quality interactions that they'll remember."

"The problem is we often express love through gifts," says Buchanan, who studies parent-child relationships and teaches courses on effective parent-child relations. "We worry they won't feel loved if we don't provide material things."

She offers a few suggestions for families who are cutting back this holiday season:

-- Don't be overly apologetic for what children are not getting. Although
it's okay to acknowledge a child's desires or even disappointment,
parents are encouraged to focus on those things for which the child
and family can be grateful.
-- Parents should try to be upbeat and positive. If they are, children
are more likely to be positive. Focus on the gift of time. Think about
what the family can do together that is fun and memorable and treat it
like a gift.
-- Leading up to Christmas... Instead of going shopping, design time
around what your kids enjoy and make that special. Make plans to bake
cookies and drink hot chocolate, play a favorite board game, or shoot
hoops at the park.
-- Try to minimize exposure to commercials and marketing. The more
children see, the more they think they want and are more likely to be
disappointed.
-- For younger children who expect Santa to bring lots of presents,
small, inexpensive gifts like a ball or a game can be the basis for
fun, family time on Christmas Day. Shift the focus to a fun activity
and away from items that may be missing from under the tree.
-- For teenagers, things often become more important. But, teens are also
old enough to understand when parents explain that money for expensive
items just isn't in the family budget this year. For the items they
most want, parents can work with them on a longer term plan to save
for those things.
-- At all ages, parents should convey a confidence that things will be
okay.
-- Parents should not make promises they cannot keep. They should be
honest with children about what they can or cannot afford.
-- If a family is having to cut back, a parent can use the opportunity to
emphasize that their relationships are the most important thing.


"It comes down to communication," Buchanan says. Parents can look for ways beyond presents to convey their love for their children.

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Post Offices Open on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve

/PRNewswire/ -- All Post Offices nationwide will be open Christmas Eve, Thursday, Dec. 24 and New Year's Eve, Thursday, Dec. 31, but most will shorten retail lobby hours and close at noon. Mail delivery for Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 is not affected by the change.

Revised hours will be posted at each Post Office and commercial customers are asked to check with their Bulk Mail Acceptance Unit for Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 hours of operation.

Customers may call 1-800-ASK-USPS for information about specific Post Offices. In addition, mail should be deposited into blue collection mailboxes before noon for early pick-up on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. Customers requiring postal services later that day are encouraged to contact their local Postmaster.

Post Offices will be closed Friday, Dec. 25, and Friday, Jan. 1. Express Mail only will be delivered on Christmas Day and New Year's Day in most major metro areas. Post Offices will be open regular hours on Saturday, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Consumer Reports Poll: 40 Percent of Adults Have Yet to Begin Holiday Shopping

/PRNewswire/ -- Many Americans have put off shopping for holiday gifts. As of December 6th, 40 percent of adults said that they have yet to hit the stores for gifts, according to Consumer Reports' latest Holiday Shopping Poll.

They also told Consumer Reports that, on average, they will be spending $699 on holiday gifts. The full poll results are available on www.ConsumerReports.org.

Over the past three holiday shopping seasons, the average amount shoppers plan to spend on gifts has declined steadily. In 2008, shoppers anticipated spending $740, on average, down from $763 in 2007. While planned spending has decreased by $64, the number of gifts shoppers plan to buy has not changed. On average, shoppers plan to buy 15 gifts, which is about the same number as in previous years.

The next few weeks may be frantic for many shoppers, as only 12 percent have finished their holiday shopping and nearly one-third (30%) do not anticipate finishing until December 23 or later. Just over one-in-ten (13%) shoppers will not finish until December 24. And finding that perfect gift may be problematic for procrastinators, as a third (34%) of consumers who have started gift shopping have found an item they wanted was out-of-stock.

"The findings clearly show that Americans are taking a pragmatic approach to the holidays. And that's a good thing," said Tod Marks, senior editor and shopping expert for Consumer Reports. "Consumers are spending a bit less, focusing on more practical gifts, and vowing to take on less debt and pay it off sooner."

Consumer Reports' survey also found that 68 percent of credit card users plan to pay off their holiday debt by the end of January. These intentions seem ambitious, but in recent years adults have become more diligent in paying off their holiday debt.

Best Holiday Bargains
-- Survey respondents told Consumer Reports that they were finding the
best deals at mass merchandisers (41%) such as Walmart and Target, and
online retailers (39%).These were followed by department stores (21%),
discount stores (16%) such as TJ Maxx and Marshalls, outlet stores and
malls (12%), and warehouse clubs (11%).
Methods of Payment
-- About three-quarters (76%) of shoppers use cash to pay for their
holiday purchases, leading both debit cards (51%) and credit cards
(48%) by a wide margin. Men (41%) are more likely than women (29%) to
use cash most often.
-- Since 2007, the amount that consumers charge on credit cards to pay
for holiday purchases has steadily decreased. Shoppers who plan to
use their credit cards told Consumer Reports that they intend to put
less on them this year, charging $636 on average versus $682 in 2008
and $723 in 2007.
Credit Card Debt
-- Credit card users paid off their credit card debt faster last holiday
season than the preceding year. By the end of January 2009, 61
percent had paid off their credit card debt incurred during the 2008
holiday season, compared to 53 percent in 2007. However, just over
one-quarter (27%) did not pay off their 2008 holiday debt until March
2009 or later.
Give, Receive & Re-Gift
-- On average, consumers plan on buying about 15 gifts. Women plan on
buying more gifts than men, 16 compared to 13. And those getting
gifts this season may actually find them useful, as 34 percent of
adults told Consumer Reports that they are more likely to buy
practical gifts this year. This is good news for the 30 percent of
adults who said they wanted to receive more practical gifts. Although
practical gifts are not guaranteed to be good, especially if they come
from an extended family member, who 15 percent reported give the worst
gifts. Parents (6%) and in-laws (7%) are less likely to give the
worst gift. Seen that gift before? Look closely, as 15 percent of
gift shoppers reported that they will practice re-gifting this year.
Online Shopping
-- The percentage of shoppers who plan to buy gifts online continues to
increase. This year, 39 percent of shoppers plan to purchase gifts
online between early December and the holidays, up from 31 percent in
2006. And when it comes to online shopping, men (44%) are more likely
than women (34%) to do so.
Post-Holiday Shopping
-- According to the Consumer Reports' poll, nearly half (46%) of adults
plan to shop in-stores between Christmas and New Years, with most
being drawn into the stores to take advantage of post-holiday sales
(81%) and 69 percent planning to shop for themselves.
Wishing the Holidays Away
-- Bah humbug! As of December 6th, about one in five (21%) adults said
they wished the holidays were over.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tellus Science Museum Passes 100,000 Planetarium Visitors in First Year

/PRNewswire/ -- Tellus Science Museum's digital planetarium surpassed 100,000 visitors on Monday, Dec. 14, 2010, capping off an incredible first year for the museum.

"For a planetarium our size, we are seeing three times the normal attendance of most planetariums attached to science museums," said Tellus Astronomy Program Manager David Dundee.

The Tellus planetarium seats 120 visitors and offers four different shows running multiple times throughout each day. The shows are an immersive experience, with topics ranging from the history of space travel, the sun, an animated children's show, and a very popular Christmas show running through the Holidays.

"Our audiences have really been amazed by the universe we can unveil with our digital planetarium," Dundee said. "Our Christmas shows end frequently with standing ovations from our audiences."

The 100,000th visitor was Bret Jones, 7, who came to the museum with his mom and grandparents.

"I was shocked," said Charles Watterson, Bret's grandfather. "I didn't expect this. We drove by the museum on the way to our daughter's house and wanted to come back."

The planetarium is only one part of the Tellus experience. The museum boasts four galleries: Weinman Mineral Gallery, Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion and Collins Family My Big Backyard. Tellus has seen more than 188,000 visitors in its first year of operation.

"I am thrilled that the planetarium has proven to be such a popular venue at Tellus," said museum director, Jose Santamaria. "Every other person who visits the museum also takes in a planetarium show."

New shows premiere in the planetarium every few months, assuring that visitors who think they have seen it all at Tellus have only scratched the surface of what the museum has to offer.

"Often we will see the same families returning over and over for all of our new programs. We have many visitors who come monthly to the planetarium to see our Live Sky tour programs. Some visitors will even go to two or three different shows in one museum visit," Dundee said. "It really is gratifying to have such a positive reaction from our patrons."

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Twelve Days of Holiday Safety From the American Red Cross

/PRNewswire/ -- With last-minute gifts to buy, social events to attend and family and friends to visit while the weather outside is frightful, the American Red Cross has 12 days of health and safety tips to make the holiday season safe, happy and bright.

1. Prepare your vehicle for traveling to grandmother's house. Make an emergency kit and include items such as blankets or sleeping bags, jumper cables, fire extinguisher (5 lb., A-B-C type), compass and road maps, shovel, tire repair kit and pump, extra clothing, flares, tow rope.

2. Drive your sleigh and reindeer safely. Avoid driving in a storm, but if you must, keep your gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing. Let someone know your destination, route and when you expect to arrive.

3. Help prevent the spread of the flu. Wash hands with soap and water as often as possible, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Use sanitizing wipes to disinfect hard surfaces such as airplane tray tables, luggage handles, cell phones, door handles and seat armrests.

4. Prevent hypothermia by following Santa's lead. Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, which will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears. Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.

5. Use a Red Cross-trained babysitter when attending holiday festivities. Red Cross-certified babysitters learn to administer basic first aid; properly hold and feed a child; take emergency action when needed; monitor safe play and actively engage your child; and some may be certified in Infant and Child CPR.

6. Avoid danger while roasting chestnuts over an open fire. Stay in the kitchen while you are cooking and be alert. Keep anything flammable -- such as potholders, towels or curtains -- away from your stove top. Have a "kid-free zone" of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drinks are prepared or carried.

7. Be a lifesaver during the holidays and always. The Red Cross recommends at least one person in every household should be trained and certified in first aid and CPR/AED. Your local Red Cross chapter has conveniently scheduled courses and can have you trained and certified in a few hours.

8. Designate a driver or skip the holiday cheer. When you designate a driver who won't be drinking, you help make sure a good party doesn't turn into a tragedy. A good host ensures there are non-alcoholic beverages available for drivers. The designated driver should not drink any alcoholic beverages, not even one.

9. When the weather outside is frightful, heat your home safely. Never use your stove or oven to heat your home. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and test them once a month.

10. Cut down on your heating bills without being a Grinch. Get your furnace cleaned by a professional; change the filters regularly. Make sure heat vents aren't blocked by furniture. Close off any rooms you aren't using and close heat vents or turn off radiators in those rooms. Use either insulating tape or caulking strips to surround your windows and door moldings. Put up storm windows or storm doors to keep the cold out.

11. Don't move a muscle, until they buckle. Each person in your vehicle should have their seatbelts securely fastened before driving off. Ensure children are buckled up and their car seats are installed appropriately based on their age and size. Children 12 and under should always sit in the backseat.

12. Resolve to Be Red Cross Ready in the New Year. You can take one or more actions to prepare now, should you or your family face an emergency in 2010. Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday from the American Red Cross.

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New Survey Shows Slow Decline in Youth Smoking, Troubling Increase in Smokeless Tobacco Use - Congress, States Must Step Up Tobacco Prevention Efforts

/PRNewswire/ -- Following is a statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

The 2009 Monitoring the Future Survey released today by the National Institute of Drug Abuse shows that the nation continues to make gradual progress in reducing youth smoking, but declines have slowed significantly compared to the dramatic gains early in the decade. In especially troubling news, the survey also finds that smokeless tobacco use has increased among 10th and 12th graders in recent years, a period during which tobacco companies have introduced a slew of new smokeless tobacco products and significantly increased marketing for smokeless tobacco.

There is no question that we know how to dramatically reduce youth tobacco use. The use of proven strategies has caused smoking rates (the percentage who have smoked in the past 30 days) to decline by 69 percent among 8th graders, 57 percent among 10th graders and 45 percent among 12th graders since peaking in the mid-1990s. This is a remarkable public health success story. Before the recent increase, youth smokeless tobacco use also declined significantly from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. However, the much slower progress in recent years is a clear warning to elected officials at all levels that they must resist complacency and redouble efforts to implement proven measures - rather than cutting tobacco prevention programs, as 34 states did this year. It is unacceptable to stand still or risk backsliding in the fight against the nation's number one preventable cause of death. It is also unacceptable that one in five high school seniors still smoke (according to the survey, 20.1 percent of 12th graders, 13.1 percent of 10th graders and 6.5 percent of 8th graders reported past-month smoking in 2009).

In addition to the lack of further progress in reducing youth smoking, the increase in smokeless tobacco use among youth is very troubling. According to the survey, there have been significant increases in smokeless tobacco use among both 10th and 12th graders in recent years. The percentage of 12th graders reporting past-month smokeless tobacco use increased from 6.1 percent in 2006 to 8.4 percent in 2009 (a 38 percent increase), while the percentage of 10th graders reporting smokeless tobacco use increased from 4.9 percent in 2004 to 6.5 percent in 2009 (a 33 percent increase).

This increase coincides with the introduction of numerous new smokeless tobacco products and a big increase in smokeless tobacco marketing. In recent years, the top two U.S. cigarette manufacturers, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, have entered the smokeless tobacco market both by purchasing existing smokeless tobacco companies and introducing new smokeless tobacco products. These new products have included Marlboro snus and Camel snus that married the names of these companies' best-selling and most youth-popular cigarette brands to spitless, pouched smokeless tobacco products called snus. In 2008, R.J. Reynolds began test-marketing new dissolvable smokeless tobacco products called Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs that look like gum and candy and come in "fresh" and "mellow" flavors. These new products no doubt appeal to kids because they are easy to conceal, carry the names of youth-popular cigarette brands and come in candy-like forms and flavors. In addition, more traditional smokeless tobacco products continue to be marketed in a wide variety of kid-friendly candy and fruit flavors.

There has also been a big increase in smokeless tobacco marketing. According to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission, smokeless tobacco marketing expenditures totaled $354.1 million in 2006, an increase of 53 percent since 2004 and 143 percent since 1998. Smokeless tobacco marketing rose even as cigarette marketing fell slightly from 2003 to 2006. While most cigarette brands have stopped advertising in magazines with large youth readerships such as Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, many smokeless tobacco brands continue to advertise in these publications, most notably R.J. Reynolds' Camel snus. Also, more than 60 percent of smokeless marketing is spent on price discounts (including coupons) that make smokeless tobacco products more affordable and appealing to price-sensitive youth customers.

The Monitoring the Future survey also found a decrease in recent years in the percentage of 10th and 12th graders who perceive regular smokeless tobacco use as a great risk to health. This decline in risk perception comes as some smokeless tobacco companies have sought to portray their products as a less hazardous alternative to cigarettes. Rather than reducing the harm caused by tobacco use, today's survey indicates that the main consequence of current smokeless tobacco products and marketing is to increase the number of youth who use smokeless tobacco. That is bad news for health because smokeless tobacco is far from harmless. Smokeless tobacco, as traditionally sold in the U.S., has been found to increase risk of oral cancer, gum disease and cardiovascular disease. Constant exposure to tobacco juice has also been linked to cancer of the esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach and pancreas.

The Monitoring the Future survey underscores the need for elected officials at all levels to step up the fight against all forms of tobacco use. Congress and President Obama have taken major strides this year by approving a 62-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax and enacting the new law granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing. The survey results do not reflect the full impact of the cigarette tax increase, which took effect April 1, in the middle of the survey period. There is evidence that the cigarette tax increase has had a significant impact. Manufacturers reported a 10 percent decline in cigarette sales in the third quarter of this year. The new FDA law took effect June 22 and will be implemented over several years.

There are many additional steps Congress and the states must take:
-- The pending health care reform legislation presents Congress with an
immediate opportunity for action. It is vital that health care reform
include robust funding for community-based disease prevention
initiatives, including tobacco prevention and cessation. Congress
should also require coverage for smoking cessation therapies in
Medicaid and other health insurance programs.
-- States must invigorate their efforts to implement three proven
strategies: higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free workplace laws and
well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Unfortunately,
as a report released last week by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
and our partners showed, the states have cut funding for tobacco
prevention programs by 15.4 percent this year and are spending barely
two percent of their $25.1 billion in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco
use. Instead, states should hike tobacco taxes to help fill budget
gaps and use some of the revenue to fund tobacco prevention programs.
As the new survey underscores, states should increase tax rates on
smokeless and other tobacco products to match those on cigarettes so
that differential rates do not encourage kids to use cheaper-priced
tobacco products.


Tobacco use causes more than 400,000 preventable deaths and costs the nation nearly $200 billion in health expenditures and lost productivity each year. We know what works to reduce tobacco use among both youths and adults. What's needed is the political will to implement these solutions as aggressively as the tobacco industry promotes its deadly products.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Maryland and Georgia Shine a Spotlight on Tort Reform

/24-7/ Tort reform is a perpetually relevant and constantly debated issue, mostly because there seems to be no static, easily-applied answer.

Proponents of capped, non-economic liability suits claim:
-Uncapped suits result in higher insurance costs for doctors, which lead to a lack of specialists in states with no caps. Essentially, doctors don't want to practice there.
-Uncapped suits also lead to higher insurance costs for consumers, as the higher cost for doctors is transferred down.

Opponents of capped, non-economic liability suits argue that:
-Capped suits are unfair to patients who have the most to lose. By imposing caps, we inadvertently punish those facing the most suffering, but with smaller economic implications.
-In addition, judges have the ability to limit monetary awards that balloon out of proportion. Therefore, caps limit the ability of the court to serve its purpose.

Currently the Georgia Supreme Court is hearing arguments over the state's $350,000 medical liability cap. In February, a county judge ruled that the non-economic damage cap was unconstitutional, as it cut across the court's right to determine awards. Judge Diane E. Bessen went on to say that the cap violated equal patient protection by disproportionately impacting those with more severe injuries.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, the court of appeals will hear arguments on whether liability caps should pertain only to cases resolved in arbitration. Supporters of the cap argue that this move would simply result in more court cases. Cap opponents hold that a "one-size-fits-all" approach is no solution and that more serious cases deserve higher judgments.

Over 20 states currently employ medical liability caps, including Kansas which, at $250,000, is one of the lowest.

While tort reform and medical liability caps remain a hot button in the healthcare debate, more and more data points to the fact that liability claims may not be as large a factor in healthcare costs as commonly thought. Estimates put it at about two or three percent of the entire U.S. healthcare bill.

Still, it's an easy target.

In 2004, the Rand Institute for Civil Justice released a study examining the effects of California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which was launched in 1975. The study found that those most affected by MICRA were individuals that suffered fewer economic damages, but faced a high amount of pain and loss in quality of life.

In other words, if you suffered an injury which did not impact you very much financially, but severely decreased your quality of life (say, you can no longer lift your arms above your head) you would be more susceptible to the cap.

Tort reform is a highly-emotional issue, for doctors, patients, lawyers and all those concerned about the future of healthcare. The cases in Georgia and Maryland certainly mark important decisions for both states, indeed, they may help to set a precedent that echoes across the country.

Article provided by Warner Law Offices PA

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ESFI Warns of Electrical Hazards Caused By Severe Winter Weather

(BUSINESS WIRE)--As communities across the United States prepare for winter, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) warns consumers to be mindful of electrical hazards that can be left behind in the aftermath of a major winter storm or disaster.

“Electrical dangers associated with downed power lines, portable generators, and submerged electrical equipment can still cause injuries and deaths once a snow or ice storm has ended,” cautions ESFI president, Brett Brenner.

ESFI recommends taking the following electrical safety precautions during severe winter weather:

Post-Disaster Safety

* After a storm, return home during daylight hours, especially if power has not been restored.
* If you smell gas, notify emergency authorities immediately. Do not turn on lights, light matches, or engage in any activity that could create a spark.
* Use caution when restoring disrupted power after a storm. Contact your utility company to report damage to any part of your electrical service.

Portable Generators

* Portable generators can be used as a source of power if power goes out during a storm and causes electrical outages.
* Do not operate a portable generator in your home, basement, or garage. Generators can very quickly produce high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
* Be sure that the generator is dry and properly grounded. Plug appliances directly into the generator to prevent back feed along the power lines.
* Make sure that there is at least one working carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test the batteries at least twice a year, at the same time smoke detector batteries are tested.

Downed Power Lines

* Always assume fallen power lines are energized. Stay at least ten feet away from a downed power line and any nearby objects it may be touching, such as a fence or a tree limb.
* Contact your utility company immediately to report downed power lines outside your home.
* Never touch a person who is in direct or indirect contact with a downed power line. Instead, call 911 immediately.
* Never attempt to move a downed power line with another object. Even non-conductive materials like wood or cloth that are slightly wet can conduct electricity.

ESFI is a 501(c) (3) organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety. ESFI proudly sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May, and engages in public education campaigns throughout the year to prevent electrical fires, injuries, and fatalities. To learn more about ESFI and electrical safety visit www.electrical-safety.org.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

HHS Highlights Innovative New Open Government Initiatives

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today three innovative HHS ideas that have been developed as a result of a more open and accessible federal decision making process in collaboration between the public, private sector and the federal government.

Information Streaming, IdeaLab, and YouTube Know What to Do About the Flu and Prevention PSA Contest implement the President's three principles for promoting a transparent and open government: transparency, participation, and collaboration.

HHS initiatives help to facilitate ways for the public and private sector to find the information they need and receive real-time updates, which can fuel entrepreneurial momentum, create new jobs, and strengthen economic growth.

"These examples illustrate our commitment to the President's vision of promoting accountability, collaboration and public engagement," Secretary Sebelius said. "By working together in a transparent manner, we have developed programs that are making real contributions to creating and adopting impactful solutions that protect and improve people's health."

* Information Streaming of HHS biomedical research innovation, part of the National Assets for High-Tech Economic Growth commitment, uses new Web technology to provide real time access to information on technologies available for licensing from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) intramural laboratories and NIH Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) opportunities. Access to this and similar information from other federal laboratories on www.data.gov will enhance user driven
innovation.

This project is part of a collaborative effort among the NIH and FDA in the Department of Health and Human Services; the Agricultural Research Service in the Department of Agriculture; the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the Department of Commerce; the Department of Energy; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which are working together to increase access to information on publicly-funded technologies that are available for license; opportunities for federal funding and partnerships; and potential
private-sector partners.

* IdeaLab, an innovative Web-based peer-to-peer program that serves as a clearinghouse for collaborative networking for employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). IdeaLab is open and transparent. Anyone working at CDC can post an idea or request help with a project, and then other CDC employees can post their comments, solutions, and similar experiences. IdeaLab does not, however, allow anonymous postings or comments as doing so would be contrary to the intent of creating the site -- which is to promote transparency,
participation, and collaboration.

* YouTube Know What to Do About the Flu and Prevention PSA Contest, reached populations most vulnerable to the H1N1 flu virus, young teens and adults, to take proactive actions such as washing your hands and getting a flu shot. The PSA contest provided a venue to encourage families and students to get involved and reached a large audience with a creative outlet and humor, on a serious subject. More than 250 videos were submitted for review. Subject matter experts selected 10 finalists. The public then voted to select the overall winner. The winning PSA was featured on national television. Other runner-up PSAs are also being seen on a number of national media outlets and can be viewed on www.flu.gov.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said, "By using the latest information technologies available, the NIH Intramural Research Program provides instantaneous access to information about opportunities to license NIH inventions or to partner with NIH scientists. This is an important step in accelerating the translation of discoveries into effective therapeutics."

"IdeaLab helps CDC better leverage its brainpower to generate and incubate ideas, solve problems, encourage collaboration, and promote broad adoption of the best solutions by tapping into the knowledge, skills, and creativity of our staff regardless of where someone actually
works, " said Joanne Andreadis, Ph.D., CDC Office of Strategy and Innovation Team Leader. "We have all of these individuals at CDC with a wealth of knowledge they have accumulated over a lifetime of professional and personal experiences -- tapping into that collective knowledge allows us to make good ideas better," Andreadis explained.

"Our PSA Contest tapped the creativity and energy that thrives on YouTube," said Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Jenny Backus. "We engaged people and they in turn engaged each other. Our important messages about how to prevent the flu reached a new audience of people at increased risk from the H1N1 virus."

These initiatives are in direct response to the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government the President issued on January 21, 2009, his first full day in office, calling for recommendations for making the Federal government more transparent, participatory, and
collaborative.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Entertainment Publications Uncovers America's Most Generous Cities

/PRNewswire/ -- Entertainment Publications LLC, http://www.entertainment.com/, ranks Washington, D.C., as America's most generous city, based on funds raised for schools and community groups through the sale of Entertainment Membership Books and the company's cookie dough and Sally Foster gift items. Following Washington on the "America's Most Generous Cities" list are three cities from the traditionally hospitable South: Atlanta, Dallas and Houston (tied with Seattle).

Combined, America's Top 10 Most Generous cities donated approximately $22 million to support local schools and community groups.

The top 10 cities ranked by Entertainment Publications are:
1. Washington D.C./Maryland
2. Atlanta
3. Dallas
4. Houston
5. Seattle
6. Minneapolis/St. Paul
7. Chicago
8. Salt Lake City
9. Orange County, Calif.
10. Denver


Other cities topping the list with generous community contributions include Kansas City, Kan.; Detroit; Boston; St. Louis; Orlando; and Sacramento.

As the leading provider of discount offers, coupons and promotions, Entertainment Publications has helped schools and community groups across the country raise more than $70 million last year alone. In today's economy, fundraising dollars are more important than ever for these organizations. The funds raised help schools and community groups fund purchases such as classroom supplies, field trips, transportation and more.

"These signs of generosity are especially welcome as we celebrate the season of giving," said MaryAnn Rivers, CEO of Entertainment Publications. "We work hard to create high-value products that in turn raise funds for schools and community organizations. At the end of the day, the credit goes to the generous community members who purchase the products and help support these organizations."

Throughout the past 47 years, schools, religious groups and charitable organizations have used Entertainment fundraising products including The Entertainment Membership Book, Sally Foster® giftwrap and gift products, and a line of cookie doughs and other gourmet edibles.

"Over the past four years, I have enjoyed my affiliation with Entertainment fundraisers, as they have helped to offset the costs of the Katy Taylor High School Band's annual spring trip, a price commitment that is above and beyond the usual expenses of being in a large marching band program," said Kristi Panahi, fundraising coordinator for the Katy Taylor High School Band in Katy, Texas. "I honestly don't know what the kids that use this would do if they didn't have such an awesome program to help offset such expenses. "

In an effort to improve the fundraising process, Entertainment released results of a fundraising etiquette survey earlier this year, revealing effective techniques for fundraising in the workplace.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pelosi: Estate Tax Relief Reflects Commitment to Restoring Balance and Fundamental Fairness in Tax Code

/PRNewswire/ -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement following the House passage this afternoon of the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Small Businesses Act. The legislation passed by a vote of 225 to 200.

"The Estate Tax relief bill reflects our unyielding commitment to restoring balance and fundamental fairness in our tax code. This Congress is dedicated to fiscal responsibility and to leaving a legacy of progress and prosperity to our children and grandchildren. This legislation is critical to achieving both of these goals.

"This bill is good for small businesses, good for farmers, and good for our nation's families - providing them with some certainty and stability during uncertain times. This proposal provides relief to 99.8 percent of estates nationwide, prevents additional taxes from hitting more Americans, and protects our next generation from paying higher tax rates on what they inherit from their parents.

"This measure also restores the 'pay as you go' principle of budget discipline, requiring Congress to find a way to pay for any new spending - outside an economic crisis - and returning us to a process that turned record deficits into surpluses in the 1990s.

"The Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Small Businesses Act represents a positive step forward for America's taxpayers. It is founded on the ideas of equality and opportunity - on values that form the foundation of our economic growth and our pursuit of the common good. I applaud my colleagues, particularly Congressman Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, for their leadership on this issue, and for continuing to fight for our country's families, farmers, and small business owners."

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Poll Reveals Mothers' Polarized Views of Today's Dads

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) released Mama Says: A National Survey of Moms' Attitudes on Fathering, the first-ever national survey taking an in-depth look at how today's mothers view fathers and fatherhood.

The survey's most revealing findings deal with the enormous gulf between the assessments of fathers by mothers who are married to or live with their children's dads and those who do not. More than 8 in 10 mothers married to or living with the father of their children were satisfied with his performance as a dad, but only 2 of 10 mothers not living with the father were satisfied.

Furthermore, only 1 of 3 moms not living with dad reported a "close and warm" relationship between their child and the father, while nearly 9 in 10 married mothers classified the relationship as close and warm. A majority of mothers - 2 of 3 - agreed that fathers perform best if they are married to the mothers of their children.

"This survey provides additional, powerful evidence that family structure matters. The enormous differences in responses between the moms who are married to or live with dads and those who do not are of a magnitude I have rarely seen in my years of analyzing data from social surveys. The mothers from the Mama Says survey have shown us that when fathers, mothers, and their children live together, fatherhood is optimized," said Norval Glenn, PhD, one of the report's co-authors.

Conducted by the University of Texas Office of Survey Research, Mama Says surveyed 1,533 mothers over the age of 18 with at least one child in the home under the age of 18. They were asked a series of over 80 questions dealing with a range of topics, such as their general opinions about fatherhood, views on work-family balance, and obstacles to good fathering. The report was co-authored by Dr. Glenn and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, PhD and was released at an event at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

While the survey revealed nearly identical views on fatherhood by both married and cohabiting mothers, other research has shown the relative instability of cohabiting relationships compared to marriages - married couples are at least three times more likely than cohabiting couples to be together two years after the birth of a child - further reinforcing the central role marriage plays in helping fathers be the best dads they can be for the long term.

Mama Says also revealed the central role that work-family balance plays in shaping modern fatherhood. The mothers reported that "work responsibilities" are fathers' biggest obstacles to good fathering. Additionally, whether or not a father effectively balanced work and family - which only about half of the mothers said he did - was the third strongest predictor of whether or not she was satisfied with his performance as a dad. Furthermore, 2 of 3 moms reported that they could better balance work and family if their child's father offered more support at home.

"Mama Says adds support to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that work-family balance is a critical issue for the success or failure of co-parenting in today's busy world. The moms surveyed want to have more help from the fathers of their children - a view that strongly argues for creating effective work-family balance options for both moms and dads," said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-author of Mama Says.

The most troublesome finding for those who view fathers as playing unique roles in their children lives is the majority opinion among mothers that fathers are replaceable by moms or other men. More than half of the moms agree that fathers are replaceable by moms, and 2 of 3 moms agree that fathers are replaceable by other men. However, in a national survey of dads' attitudes on fatherhood, Pop's Culture, released by NFI in 2006, similar but slightly lower proportions of fathers agreed with these statements.

Therefore, it seems to be a majority view in the American public that fathers are replaceable despite near universal agreement that there is a father absence crisis in the United States - 93 percent and 91 percent of moms and dads, respectively, agree that such a crisis exists. The mothers who feel fathers are replaceable but feel there is a father absence crisis may believe that while possible, it is unlikely that an adequate substitute for a missing father can be found.

Other significant findings from Mama Says include:
-- Mothers not living with fathers reported "lack of knowledge about how
to be a good father" and "lack of resources specifically designed for
fathers" as the first and third most significant obstacles to good
fathering.
-- When asked about potential sources of help for fathers in the
community, mothers were most likely to choose religious organizations
as the most important source of help, followed by schools and
community organizations.
-- Nearly 9 in 10 mothers feel they are a positive influence on the
ability of their child's father to be a good father.
-- While white mothers reported significantly more satisfaction with
fathers than did black mothers, the entire difference can be explained
by the fact that black mothers are significantly less likely to be
marred to or live with the fathers of their children.
-- Very religious mothers reported significantly more satisfaction with
fathers' performances than all other mothers, even when controlling
for the father's family situation.
-- More than half of mothers agreed that the media tends to portray
fathers in a negative light.


The findings of the Mama Says survey, when taken as a whole, reveal sharp differences in how today's moms view dads, and these differences can mostly be explained by whether or not mom is married to or lives with dad, whether or not dad effectively balances work and family, and whether or not he has the skills he needs to be a good dad.

"The Mama Says survey validates the approach National Fatherhood Initiative has taken for the 15 years since its founding to strengthen the institution of fatherhood," said Roland C. Warren, president of NFI. "The moms have shown us the importance of continuing to uphold marriage as the ideal environment in which the best fathering can take place. And they have also shown us the importance of making sure that all fathers, married or not, have the skills they need to be involved, responsible, and committed fathers to their children."

The entire Mama Says survey report is available for download at www.fatherhood.org/mamasays.

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Lockheed Martin Successfully Demonstrates Use of Simulation in a Strategic National Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Exercise

/PRNewswire/ -- Using several military training applications adapted for the civil environment, Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) demonstrated that a complex higher fidelity simulation exercise could ultimately lower training costs while maintaining a high level of readiness for federal and state emergency operations centers.

Should a major city or region be faced with a release of biological agents, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Strategic National Stockpile (DSNS) would distribute large quantities of pharmaceutical supplies to state agencies. To test the distribution system, the DSNS would normally conduct a full scale exercise moving supplies to a state under simulated emergency conditions. But the magnitude of such an exercise could cost several million dollars. Enter SIMAN, or the "Stockpile in Motion Across the Nation" simulation training program developed by Lockheed Martin for the DSNS.

SIMAN is based on a variety of military training programs which have been adapted for civil application. It replicates the operations of warehouse distribution and receiving, simulates ground and air transport vehicles carrying medical countermeasures and other medical supplies to state governments and provides an after action review capability to allow DSNS to determine the effectiveness of its distribution network. It simulates not only the movement of materials, but also exercises the situational awareness of exercise participants and even includes simulated television news broadcasts of the event.

"The objective of the exercise was to ensure that the SIMAN simulation could accurately simulate the DSNS processes for delivery of millions of doses of drugs and other medical material within 24 hours of the incident and that the simulation accurately replicated the operational environment," said Dale Bennett, President of Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training & Support "The simulation performed extremely well and the exercise was a deemed a success by the participants and CDC senior personnel."

The two-day exercise took place earlier this year over a 34 hour period and was one of the largest distributed exercises ever performed by the DSNS. It involved more than 100 people and simulated the movement of several thousand pallets of supplies using nearly 200 trucks and 11 aircraft. The consensus view of those participating was that SIMAN was easy to use and the simulation improved the realism of the overall exercise. Since the exercise, the CDC has awarded Lockheed Martin a two-year follow-on contract for $2.3 million, to provide additional capabilities for SIMAN and to assist with supporting future exercises.

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